As a horse owner, it is your job to keep your horse happy and healthy throughout their lives, and you will have to make choices for them, right down to their feet! Whilst there are valid points both for and against horseshoes, deciding to transition to barefoot is down to you Below, we will look at the benefits of both, as well as if your horse is suitable to work without shoes and how you can support them with specific horse feed when transitioning to barefoot.
The Benefits Of Horseshoes
Horseshoes have been used for many years to help protect the horse’s hooves from excessive wear and tear. This originated from a time when horses were used for work and spent many more hours in work compared to today. Nowadays, the majority of horses are used for leisure time and so don’t do anywhere near as much work as they used to.
Shoes do still have a place for competition horses and those that do a lot of road work. They can provide more traction on certain surfaces – shoeing your horse can give them the grip and stability they need in all weather conditions, including if it is icy or muddy. They can also help to improve your horse’s balance, and farriers can use corrective shoeing to help horses with poor hoof conformation. if. Remedial shoeing can offer additional support and can be especially useful for horses that suffer from arthritis or laminitis so that they can remain comfortable.
However, contrary to what some may believe, many horses don’t need shoes.
Is Your Horse Suitable For Barefoot?
Generally, if your horse has healthy feet with sturdy hoof walls and thickened soles, you could give barefoot a try. Because a barefoot horse won’t get support from shoes, healthy feet are essential so that they are not in pain, or have their movement compromised. All horses’ circumstances are unique, and although you should consider whether barefoot is right for horses that suffer from soreness, or if they need extra grip and support, many barefoot horses adapt over time – you just need to take care and manage them throughout the process.
What Are The Benefits?
If you’re thinking about making the change from shoeing your horse to going barefoot, here are some of the reported benefits attributed to going barefoot that may help you to make your decision.
- Improved Circulation: It is said that a horse that is barefoot has improved circulation in comparison to those that wear metal shoes
- Reduces Risk Of Injury: Without a metal shoe, a horse’s foot can move and adjust shape to differing terrains either when turned out or when riding, which may help to reduce the risk of injury
- Improves Foot Health: Combining trimming, diet, and overall health means that hoof problems are likely to improve dramatically, especially if your horse’s shoes are prone to coming off and taking bits of the hoof with them.
Making The Adjustment
If you have decided that you’d like to try your horse barefoot, there are a few considerations you’ll need to think about throughout the process. The transition to barefoot can be a big change for your horse, and you’ll need to plan carefully so that their feet do not become sore. The transition period for your horse to adapt can take up to a year.
You will have to get your horse’s feet trimmed and reshaped at the start of the process, and your farrier will be able to determine the type of terrain that your horse can handle without becoming sore. Build your horse’s feet up over time by encouraging thickening on new terrains. You may need to vary your horse’s workload, as they may find it more difficult without their shoes! Build your horse up gradually, strengthening their feet and getting them used to varying surroundings.
Horse Feed For Healthy Feet
There are a few factors to consider to keep your horse’s feet healthy during the transition to barefoot – one of the main ones being horse feed. Because your horse’s feet will be adapting to their terrain, feeding them with all the nutrients they need to build healthy feet and hoofs is key. If your horse has a mainly forage-based diet, you should add vitamins and minerals that may be missing, like copper, zinc and B12. Biotin can also be a good addition for healthy hoof growth as is bio-available forms of sulphur which is a component of keratin from which hoof horn is made. MSM is a commonly used source of sulphur in horse feeds and supplements designed to promote healthy hooves.